and Francella A. Quinnell
child custody reports drafted by doctoral-level psychologists
across the United Statesto determine (a) the nature, scope, and quality
reflected in report content;
he degreeto which practice
describedby survey data, and
which evaluation results are communicated o the court.
uggest that evaluation proce-dures identified
consistent with those described
with custody guidelines.Evaluations end to be court ordered, comprehensive,and well written. Ways in which
One of the most controversial areas of forensic psychology
child custody practice.Numerous authors have criticized
evaluationscompleted in this area (Melton,Petrila, Poythress,
Bradley, 1999; Turkat, 1993). Complaints have included
lack of empirical methods, theinappropriate
of psychological tests,
improper use and interpretation
lack of usefulness
the court. O’Donohue
Bradley (1999) even called for a moratoriumon such evaluations.In
wo professional organizationspromulgated child custody guidelines
promoteproficiency in this area. These guidelines, the then-Association of Family and ConciliationCourts’ (AFCC‘s) “Courts Model Standards of Practice for Child Custody Evaluations” andthe American Psychological Association’s
“Guidelines for Child Custody Evalua-tions in Divorce Proceedings” addressed the purpose
the evaluation, preparatory andtraining issues, and procedural steps. Adherence to these guidelines and the quality
cus-tody evaluations and reports continue to be areas
debate.Ensuring high-quality child custody evaluations and reports is important for a number
reasons. First, the focus
the evaluation is on the
interests of the child (AFCC, 1994;APA, 1994).
noted by Woody
there is a strong societal need to safeguard thewell-being
children; the evaluation should thus fulfill evaluators’ egal duty
protect chil-dren’s best interests. Second, the stress
divorce often results in anguish
tension forfamily members (Hodges, 1991).
is particularly true in disputedcontested divorces.
isessential, therefore, that the evaluation process minimize the probability of iatrogenic harm(Ackerman
Ackerman, 1996), hat is, evaluators’precipitating or aggravating njury to theparties because of their attitudes, actions, or comments.
the evaluator maintains neutrality,listens to
parties, uses the same standard procedures, and handledreports data in a sensi-
goal can be attained.
the conclusions and recommenda-tions made by evaluators significantly mpact families. It
imperative for evaluators o con-
The authors wish
acknowledge Joyce Chapman and Arlene Richardson or their secretarial assis-tance during this project. Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to James
Haggerty Road. Northville,Michigan